Dirty Feet

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Creativity, Joy, Kaizen-Muse | 2 comments

Dirty Feet

What does your mind look like? No, I don’t mean the physical object. What’s the landscape in there?

If you picture your inner terrain, is it a forest? A beach? Maybe your true, inner self lives by the side of a lake on a starry night. Perhaps you’re partial to a desert, or you’d rather be indoors in a beautiful house near one of those places.

Whatever your inner landscape is, take a minute to picture it. Give it the luxury of glorious detail. Don’t just see it: feel the air, hear the birds or the trees or whatever there is to hear. Is there a scent on the air? Can you taste anything?

Now that you have this fabulous image, imagine that someone walked through and left tracks of some sort. A few trees have been knocked down. The boat by your lake has been set adrift. There’s mud all over the white tile floor in that beautiful house.

Notice your reaction to this destructive act. Remember, as you notice, that this is not just a physical location. This is the landscape of your mind. It may even be the place where your soul lives. How do you feel now?

It’s an act not only of trespass but of disrespect. It’s unsettling. If this were your house, you’d be furious. You’d yell, scream, call the police. But in your mind, where you don’t normally see the damage left by others, you probably don’t notice that you can barely even see the white tile on that floor. The boat is gone and the lake has been drained—and someone’s set up a bright light that blots out your view of the stars. The trees are gone. Every last one has been logged and sold off. And you live here every second of your life.

Gandhi famously said, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”  Gandhi was a far wiser soul than I can claim to be at this point in my life. He would be able to tell you, in wise and clever words, how to keep those dirty feet out. I wish I knew the answer, but I don’t, though I’m working on it. If I were better at meditation, I’d probably advocate it, but I’m still working on that one myself. I can recommend Laughter Yoga, and my My Funny Valentine course, but I know very little in this life is one-size-fits-all. Your path may lie elsewhere or have different requirements (though I’d love to see you at either or both if they resonate with you!).

But I can tell you to notice the trees. The stars. The level of water in that lake. Put a mat outside your door and encourage people to wipe their feet before they walk through your mind. If something needs to be cleaned or replenished, do it. You can know joy or be your best creative self if your mental dwelling is a run-down shack on the seedy side of town where you’re afraid to go out at night, but it’s a whole lot harder.

Take care of yourself first. You’re the only one who will—and the only one who can.


  1. I hadn’t heard that quotation before, and it’s perfect.

    This is exactly why I banished television several years ago, and radio more recently. I get enough dirty footprints lately just walking through a public space and overhearing whatever TV the owners imagine will keep me amused while I’m there.

    Including, memorably, a disaster movie about an airplane crash, playing overheard at Gate 9A while we waited in bad weather for our delayed flight. Very dirty feet

    • I hear that, Maggie! I discontinued my TV service and have only Netflix, Amazon, and a Roku box (which gives me access to PBS’s video portal and things like TED talks). I pick what I watch and when—and it’s not very often. I stick with public radio, too, and very little of that.

      Your airport story reminds me of one of the in-flight movies on my flight to Ireland in 1995: Apollo 13. Not quite as bad, but no way was I watching a movie about something that went up but didn’t come down the way it was meant to!

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